Il pesto – The “Official” recipe


  • Four bunches of basilico genovese PDO (60-70 g of leaves);
  • 45-60 g of parmesan cheese (seasoned parmigiano reggiano or grana padano);
  • 20-40 g of Sardinian pecorino cheese;
  • 60-80 cc of Extra Virgin Olive Oil PDO from Liguria;
  • 10 g of sea salt;
  • 30 g of pine kernels (from Pisa or the Mediterranean);
  • One or two cloves of garlic (Vessalico garlic is best for its delicate flavour).

Wash the basil leaves, which must be soft and come from plants no more than 2 months old, and dry them carefully on a paper towel.
Place the garlic into a large marble mortar along with a few grains of salt and begin to crush with the pestle, which should be made of olive tree wood.
Add the pine kernels and continue to crush until you get quite a coarse pulp. Add the basil leaves and continue to crush gently, then add the cheese and mix everything together.
Soften the mixture by adding olive oil, little by little, until it reaches a smooth and creamy consistency, then transfer to a mixing bowl and mix with the rest of the oil using a wooden spoon.

A few tips:
Never press the basil leaves too hard, but rotate the pestle gently along the sides of the mortar so that they tear without being crushed. The pesto should be made in mild temperatures and not take too long as oxidation with alter the taste and colour of the basil.
The amount of garlic you use can be altered to suit your personal taste, but leaving it out completely will alter the authentic flavour. Some people, mostly from the Riviera, add a little curd or hazel nuts, which are acceptable additions. Whereas cashew nuts and parsley are an absolute no no!
Where practical, you should avoid using an electric blender as the steel blades and heat produced alter the flavour of the sauce.
Before adding to the pasta of choice - trofie, troffiette, trenette, mandilli de saea (mini lasagne), testaieu (testaroli) - a good tip is to dilute the sauce a little with the water drained
from the pasta.
If you fancy it, you can also boil a few potatoes or string beans with the trenette pasta, to make trenette avvantaggiae, a complete and satisfying typical dish.
Finally, pesto can be preserved for a few days in the fridge by covering it with extra olive oil to avoid oxidation, which should then be drained when it comes to be used.

The recipes are taken from the guide “Dining in Genoa”, by M&R Comunicazione, available at the Tourist Information Offices